Holland America Line has canceled controversial calls to the
tiny Hawaiian island of Molokai, planned for later this year, until
it can hold meetings with the island’s community and resolve the
While cruise-ship protests do erupt sporadically, often in
quiet, environmentally sensitive ports, it is unusual for scheduled
calls to be cancelled outright.
The move came in response to a request from the heads of the
state House and Senate transportation committees to call off the
plans, until cruise representatives present their case to the
deeply-divided local community.
“A number of issues have been raised in the community, about
cruise ship visits to the island in general,” said David Giersdorf,
Holland America’s senior vice president of marketing and sales,
noting that the company had won a court battle earlier this month,
allowing it to make the calls. “Canceling these calls will
certainly be a disappointment to our guests, as well as to many on
The House Transportation committee chairman, Joseph Souki, said
that Princess Cruises also had notified him about canceling its
intended stop. Princess executives could not be reached for
Holland America’s Statendam was scheduled to call in April and
November; the line’s Amsterdam was also scheduled to call in April.
Princess was scheduled to call in December.
Opponents of the port calls say they fear the ships will damage
Molokai’s delicate reef environment and disrupt its rural way of
life, since the island population increases by as much as 15
percent on cruise call days. But supporters say the ships are
necessary to aid a community, whose unemployment rate is the
highest in the state.
“That’s good but it’s not over,” said Walter Ritte Jr.,
organizer of a group called Hui Ho’opakele ‘Aina, or “rescue the
land,” which in the past has mobilized a reported 100 or more
protesters when ships were scheduled to arrive. “They’re trying to
get a community meeting, which is what they should have done in the
A December call was thwarted when high seas kept the tenders
from getting to shore, and a January call was canceled when the
Statendam diverted its course to rescue three men aboard a sinking
yacht in the middle of the Pacific.
Many residents were counting on the ships to provide an economic
boost to Molokai. The Molokai Visitors Association estimated each
call would bring $131,000 to the island.
“I’m disappointed that they canceled them. Obviously it would
have been a great boost to the economy,” said association director
“I’m sorry it couldn’t be done ahead of time, but I guess better
late than never.”
Some merchants and vendors said they find themselves saddled
with costs they incurred to prepare for the ships’ arrivals.
“For now it’s ‘ouch,’ ” said Pat Puaa, manager and owner, with
her husband, of Molokai Off-Road Tours and Taxi, which increased
its insurance coverage to provide shuttles and tours for
passengers. “But we’ll be waiting. We want the whole island to be
for this before going into it. And if they can settle their issues,
then fine. We’ll be ready.”
A Maui Circuit Court earlier this month denied the hui’s request
for a preliminary injunction to stop the ships from coming.
The group still has a lawsuit pending, and its attorney, Isaac
Moriwake at Earthjustice, said that they would now ask the judge to
rule on the case.